The New York City Parks and Recreation Department is being criticized for continuing to use Amazonian Ipe wood for its park benches and boardwalks.
"[F]or New Yorkers, many pleasant experiences the city has to offer bring us unwittingly closer to the obliteration of the most ecologically dynamic part of the world -- the Amazonian rain forest.
Where do those miles and miles of wooden boardwalks, benches and handrails on Coney Island and Hudson River Park come from? What about the bench you lounge on, sipping coffee in a quiet corner of Central Park? According to environmental scientist Tim Keating, New York City's Department of Parks and Recreation is the biggest destroyer of rain forests in America and has been for years. So much for Mayor Michael Bloomberg's new "green" persona.
Pressure from environmentalists resulted in an increasing number of cities and states in the United States and abroad passing ordinances to ban the use of tropical wood in government projects. San Francisco banned the use of tropical hardwoods for municipal projects in 1990. Five years later, Los Angeles passed a purchasing policy restricting the use of tropical hardwoods by city government.
Numerous other visionary city and state governments have followed suit. Long Beach passed an ordinance declaring they would use only wood harvested from well-managed forests, certified as environmentally and socially-sustainably felled by the Forest Stewardship Council.
But the market for Ipé wood drives much of the industrial logging of the entire Amazon, and has increased dramatically in the past 20 years. An emergent flowering tree, which peppers the canopy of the Amazonian rainforest in hues of pink, magenta, yellow and white, Ipé grows in the rainforests at densities of only one or two trees an acre. This means that vast areas of the forests are razed to the ground to feed the market for a single tree. It is estimated that, for every Ipé tree cut, 28 other trees must be cut and are thrown away. For New York City's 10 miles of boardwalk alone, over 110,500 acres (130 square miles) of old growth Amazon rainforest were logged."